Archive for the ‘ple’ Category

New thoughts on Personal Learning Environments

November 19th, 2013 by Graham Attwell

One of the frustrations with the Personal Learning Environments conferences has been the time it has taken us to publish papers after the conference. This year we tied up with e_learning Papers who publish an electronic journal on the European Commission Open Education Europa portal. And I am delighted to say they have just published a special edition of the journal on PLEs, edited by Ilona Buchem and  Tapia Toskinen.

The foreword to the edition is included in full below together with links to the different papers.

“The proliferation of learning innovations such as personal devices, granular and distributed applications, services, and resources, requires the learner to develop his or her own strategies for managing the various information streams and tools to support learning. Such strategies are necessary not only in educational settings, but basically in any life situation which can become a moment or an episode of learning. Digital and non-digital building blocks can be individually combined by learners in their own Personal Learning Environment (PLEs).

More of an approach or strategy than a specific learning platform, a PLE is created by learners in the process of designing and organising their own learning, as opposed to following pre-arranged learning paths. In this way, PLEs are distinctly learner-centred and foster autonomous learning. PLEs are by no means isolated; they are interconnected in a digital ecosystem of media, tools and services. Instead of asking learners to navigate within one monolithic environment, PLEs act as a gateway to an open and connected learning experience. This approach marks a shift towards a model of learning in which learners draw connections from a pool of digital and non-digital building blocks, aggregating, mixing and combining them into unique constellations as part of learning.

While emphasizing the active role of a learner, the PLE approach implies that learning is not located in a specific time and place, but is an ongoing, ubiquitous and multi-episodic process. As PLEs allow the collocation of diverse learning activities, tools, and resources, contexts permeate and learning becomes connected. In this sense, PLEs challenge some dominant paradigms in education and in the traditional understanding of borders, be it in view of learning places, educational roles or institutional policies.

This special issue builds on the current PLE discussion and focuses on crossing the boundaries of learning contexts. It features some emerging practices, including the construction of PLEs as part of an augmented localised learning experience with mobile devices; PLEs as an approach to supporting learning through work practice; and using gamification and open badges as part of the PLE approach. The findings and insights of the articles in this issue demonstrate the rich contribution of the PLE approach to the opening up of education.”

Download Print Version

Articles

Personal Learning Environments in Smart Cities: Current Approaches and Future Scenarios
Author(s): Ilona Buchem, Mar Pérez-Sanagustín

A gamification framework to improve participation in social learning environments

PLE Conference 2014 – Beyond formal: emergent practices for living, learning and working

November 10th, 2013 by Graham Attwell

The PLE conference in 2010 was only intended to be a one off. But here we are, busy organising the 2014 conference.  Why has it been so successful_ Whilst trends and fads in educational technology come and go Personal Learning Environments haven’t gone away.  They couldn’t. They were not just a trendy new bit of technology but an approach to both explaining how people are using technology for learning today and at the same time an approach to reforming and recasting pedagogic approaches to teaching and learning.

And the PLE conference is itself a flipped conference and has built a reputation as one of the best learning events on teh annual conference calendar.

The theme for PLE 2014 conference, announced today will be: “Beyond formal: emergent practices for living, learning and working”. And the European conference, usually held in the first two weeks of July, will be in Tallinn in Estonia. The southern hemisphere version of the conference, held for the last two years in Australia, will be at the  UNITAR International University in Malaysia.

Hopefully the call for contributions will be released in early December. More details on this page when available.

Real MOOCs ?

December 17th, 2012 by Graham Attwell

Hardly a day goes by without the announcement of a new MOOC or a new tie up between universities to offer MOOCs. this despite widespread scepticism amongst educationalists as to the pedagogic model being offered by the ‘commercial’ or x-MOOC providers or indeed any particularly convincing financial model.

And yet the original idea behind the MOOC as developed by Downes, Siemens and others is not dead.

Today I received an email from Yishay Mor about a new MOOC being launched in early 2013.

The OLDS MOOC “Learning Design for a 21st Century Curriculum” is a project based 9 week course. We expect 500-1000 participants, and we hope a large portion of these will be working on a group project throughout the MOOC, dedicating 3-10 hours a week to it, and producing an innovative, robust and meaningful design for a learning activity or curricular resource.

We aim to provide a semi-structured, highly interactive, constructive and collaborative learning experience. This means that we set the scene – but you determine the plot.

In order to make that work, we need to provide simple, effective, and powerful learning practices.

This looks interesting. So what distinguishes in from the so called x-MOOCS with the power of the so called world leading educational institutions behind them.

First the MOOC is based on research and development work – not just on a traditional curriculum.

Secondly and perhaps even more important the people behind the MOOC are not contracted instructional designers but researchers and teachers with an interest, stake and passion for their work and a desire o share that passion with others.

Thirdly although they are providing an infrastructure through the Open University Cloudworks environment amongst other tools, participants are free to use whatever tools they wish.

And the organisers are supporting the establishment of study groups to support and scaffold learning.

Of course all of this is a lot of work. As so it should be. Supporting 500 to 1000 students in a sic week course is not and should not be seen as trivial. But I am afraid many of the more commercial MOOC providers think a quick injection of instructional design time plus videoing some lectures is a quick fix for education.

If anything the divide between different MOOC offerings continues to widen. But at least, amongst all the hype, we still continue to see the emergence of some excellent looking open courses.

 

2012 PLE Conference papers now online

December 17th, 2012 by Graham Attwell

In these days of repositories and Open Online Resources publishing should be easy. But it is still not so simple. For one thing there is all the editing and checking = for another developing / begging or borrowing the technical infrastructure.

The PLE Conference organisers are committed to publishing all contributions to our annual conference online with a Creative Commons License. And thanks to hard work by Carlos, Luis and Sara, the proceedings of the 2012 conference, held in Aveiro, Portugal, are now online here.

Check it out – if you have any interest in Personal Learning Environments you will find much of interest.

PLE Conference 2013

November 27th, 2012 by Graham Attwell

The Call for Papers for the PLE Conference 2013 is out!  The PLE Conference 2013 will be held in Berlin & Melbourne 10-12 July 2013 around the theme of: Personal Learning Environments: Learning and Diversity in Cities of the Future.

According to the PLE website: “The PLE Conference intends to create a space for researchers and practitioners to exchange ideas, experiences and research around the development and implementation of Personal Learning Environments (PLEs) – including the design of environments and the sociological and educational issues that they raise.

Personal Learning Environments (PLEs) are an approach to Technology- Enhanced Learning based on the principles of learner autonomy and empowerment. PLEs include methods, tools, communities, and services constituting individual learning infrastructures or ecosystems which learners use to direct their own learning and pursue their educational goals. This represents a shift away from the traditional model of learning based on knowledge transfer towards a model of learning based on knowledge construction where learners draw connections from a growing pool of online and offline resources to plan, organise, engage in, reflect on and evaluate their learning and development. By focusing on the enhancing learning of individual, yet interconnected learners, the PLE approach encompasses a diversity of learners, tools, perspectives and knowledge.

So far Personal Learning Environments have been designed and implemented in formal and informal learning contexts, such as school and higher education, work-based learning and in-company training, and in continuing education. The potential of Personal Learning Environments for crossing the boundaries of traditional learning contexts, connecting diverse communities and infrastructures has not been fully realised. Therefore, the 4th PLE Conference in 2013 aims at taking the discussion on Personal Learning Environments a step forward, providing a new impulse for PLE research and development.

The theme for the conference is learning and diversity in cities of the future. In view of the “Smart City” concept and the key priorities for research and innovation expressed in the EU Horizon 2020 framework, innovative, sustainable and inclusive solutions become crucial not only in terms of future and emerging technologies but first and foremost in terms of (i) human knowledge and skills, (ii) diverse and inclusive communities, as well as (iii) learning and knowledge networks. Hence, new forms of connected, interdisciplinary learning and cross-boundary cooperation are seen to play a critical role in the development of creative solutions and in the intelligent exploitation of networked urban infrastructures. In smart urban spaces, people, organisations and objects become interconnected by means of new technologies and media, forging new patterns of cooperation, production, research and innovation.

As smart cities we understand smart urban spaces in the sense of Michael de Certeau, i.e. “practiced places”, places which are transformed and constituted by dynamic and diverse elements (“a tour is different than a map”). From this perspective the following questions emerge:

What shapes can Personal Learning Environments take to support diversity, cross-boundary learning and interdisciplinary transformation of urban spaces? How can we design and implement Personal Learning Environments as part of highly interconnected social and technological infrastructures of smart cities? What technology-enhanced scenarios can be envisaged to enhance learning and diversity in cities of the future?

For more information about the Call for Papers including submission themes, formats, important dates and guidelines for submissions, go the the PLE conference web site pages: ‘Call for Papers‘ and ‘Important Dates‘.”

Control and ownership

August 19th, 2012 by Graham Attwell

This presentation by Ilona Buchem to the PLE21012 conference is based on a study on the psychological ownership of Personal learning Environments. Ilona says: “One of most interesting outcomes of the study was the relation between control and ownership. The results show that while perceived control of intangible aspects of a learning environment (such as being able to determine the subject matter or access rights) has a much larger impact on the feeling of ownership of a learning environment than perceived control of tangible aspects (such as being able to choose the technology).”

Diversity and Divide in TEL: The Case for Personal Learning Environments

August 19th, 2012 by Graham Attwell

Ilona Buchem and myself have submitted a proposal, Diversity and Divide in TEL: The Case for Personal Learning Environments, for the workshop on TEL, The Crisis and the Response, to be held at next years Alpine Rendez-Vous.

The digital divide cannot be discussed only as a gap between technology haves and have-nots. Below the inequalities in access and usage, there is also a problem of a divide between contexts, domains and communities that different learners operate in. The need for empowered learners as citizens engaging in cross-boundary, problem-solving has been advocated as a necessary means for social innovation. It is through boundary-crossing or bridging the divides that individual and sociocultural differences can become a resource. However, mainstream TEL has not fully recognised the potential of boundary crossing and engaging diverse learners in collective action related to solving real life problems. Much of TEL is developed to fit the prevailing educational paradigm, focusing on ever more efficient management of learning and more reliable methods of assessment rather than encouraging learners to explore diverse ideas, experiment with diverse formats or build bridges to diverse communities.

Can promoting diversity through TEL be a response to crisis? Certainly, in view of the growing complexity of societal, environmental and economic challenges and the ever increasing amount of information and communication possibilities, diversity may raise new questions, challenges and concerns. However, both research and practice provide evidence that diversity, in terms of individual or group attributes as well as in terms of different content, resources and tools provides valuable opportunities for intellectual engagement, personal growth and the development of novel solutions.

In this position paper, we discuss whether current TEL promotes diversity or divide and the current barriers in promoting diversity in TEL. We discuss these issues based on the example of Personal Learning Environments (PLE), which is as an approach to TEL aiming at empowering learners to use diverse technological tools suited to their own needs and connecting with other learners through building Personal Learning Networks. We argue that this approach to TEL promotes diversity through boundary-crossing and responding to the diverse needs and prerequisites that each individual learner brings in. At the same time we discuss how the PLE approach challenges current educational practices and what tensions arise when Personal Learning Environments are implemented in educational institutions.

Personal Learning Environments, as an approach to TEL, focus on the learner-controlled and learner-led uses of technologies for learning with no centralised control over tools, information or interactions. This strong focus on autonomous, literate learners as agents and decision-makers taking control and claiming ownership of their learning environments is of course in contrast with regulated and planned processes at schools and universities, demanding radical changes in the prevailing educational paradigm. TEL, based on the Personal Learning Environments approach, vests learners with control over learning processes and outcomes, including planing, content, interactions, resources and assessment. In this way, the PLE approach challenges not only the prevailing educational paradigm, but also TEL approaches inspired by this paradigm, such as Learning Management Systems and pre-programmed, locked-down systems, such as some types of video games or mobile apps, which place learners in the role of recipients and consumers of systems devised by others, while failing to foster both generativity and boundary-crossing.

Such pre-programmed, quality-controlled and locked-down approaches to TEL have led to “walled gardens in cyberspace”, isolating different learners and learning contexts, posing external constraints on what learners can do in such environments in terms of activities, resources and tools. Alternatively, learner-controlled uses of technologies, as embodied in the Personal Learning Environments approach, have facilitated boundary crossing and merging multiple learning contexts, domains and communities.

The postulate of boundary-crossing through the PLE approach has a human and technological dimension. On one hand, the PLE approach calls for learners to claim and make use of ownership and control over their learning environment, exerting agency in terms of the human capacity to make choices and uses those choices in real world interactions. On the other hand, the PLE approach calls for openness, decentralisation, connectivity and permeability of technological systems.

With learner ownership, control and agency combined with openness, decentralisation, connectivity and permeability of technological systems being the core attributes of the PLE approach to TEL, diversity becomes natural. The PLE approach promotes diversity of social interactions, diversity of learning contexts and diversity of learning practices. Personal Learning Environments entail diverse people and communities coming together, diverse technology tools and platforms used and combined by learners, diverse content production and consumption modes, diverse access points and modes of learning.

However, diversity promoted by the PLE approach is a source of conflict when PLEs and other systems interact. Specifically, tensions arise at the points traditionally considered as legitimate divides in the education system including TEL, for example (a) private vs. public access, (b) course members vs. non-members, (c) disciplinary knowledge vs. practice-based knowledge, (d) formal vs. informal learning context, (e) expert vs. novice, (f) individual vs. collective practice, (g) assessment vs. reflection, (h) planning vs. implementation, or (i) standards vs. innovation.

We argue that challenging these presumably legitimate boundaries in TEL as postulated by the PLE approach is a way to innovation which may bring viable responses to the crises.

The MOOC debate

August 1st, 2012 by Graham Attwell

There is an intense debate going on about MOOCs at the moment. As  Nellie Deutsch explains in an excellent post entitled Loveless MOOCs:

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) began with the idea of connecting for learning via personal learning environments (PLEs) using blogs, wikis, google groups, and Moodle. According to Wikipedia, the term MOOC is said to have started in 2008 by Dave Cormier and Bryan Alexander “in response to an open online course designed and lead by George Siemens and Stephen Downes” (wikipedia). However, MOOCs have changed from the idea of connecting with others for learning to the more traditional content delivery format as demonstrated by Khan’s Academy, MIT’s and Standford.

Now a group of elite universities have launched their own MOOCs using Coursera (a proprietary course management system)  developed for the universities and with many other private and public educational institutions planning their own MOOCs the debate is underway.

Stephen Downes and George Siemens have characterised the difference as between C type MOOCs (C as in connectivism) and X type MOOCs (I am not sure what the X stands for). I am not sure this helps clarify things. Indeed, I think the term MOOC is now being used for almost any web based course and as such is losing any real meaning

So what are the differences.

The first is intent and motivation. The original MOOCs run by Siemens and Downes were designed to open up learning to all who wished to participate – thus the Open in the name. The business model – in as much as their was one – was based on a limited number of participants being enrolled as formal students in one of the sponsoring institutions. The new MOOCs appear to be driven by  the desire to charge for online courses, as a way of increasing enrolment on other formal courses or by charging for certification.

The latter has pedagogic implications.

Pamel McLean reports on her personal experience on her blog:

I’ve started my history of the Internet course with Coursera. I’m very interested to see how it works. It’s assessed, which I was not expecting, and find highly demotivating. I don’t really want to “master” the  cource materials.  I just want a familiarise  myself with what it covers, and how it does it.  However assessment and a final judgement of having passed or failed brings in all kinds of new dynamics. I feel a need to demonstrate to “the powers that be” that I’m not a failure, but I didn’t enrol in order to prove anything to them. I enrolled to take what I wanted from the course. Only a few hours in and I feel pushed towards jumping through hoops. I think they have only three categories “pass”, “fail” or “dropout”.

This is not the only pedagogic difference. Siemens and Downes based their MOOC on peer support through the use of social software and Web 2.0 technologies including Forums, Blogs and Twitter, webinars and internet radio. They also invited an impressive list of guest speakers who gave their time for free. Thus the model was based on peer and interactive learning through community connections, with links to participant activity being harvested and shared.

The new MOOCs are evidently not based on such a model. In fact they really just seem to be traditional on-line courses, albeit repackaged.

Furthermore, Downes and Siemens promoted the development of Personal Learning Environments with participants encouraged to develop their own learning environment including whatever applications they chose. This is very different to the closed world of Coursera technology.

I don’t agree with Nellie Deutsch’s assertion that the attitude the elite universities are choosing to take is “if you can’t join them, break them”. Instead I think they are trying to take what is clearly a successful and ground breaking innovation and trying to mold it to fit their own pedagogic and business models. But at the end of the day I don’t think what they are promoting are MOOCs, at least not as they were originally conceived.

Postscript: there are an increasing number of efforts to curate the MOOC debate – I particularly like Networked Learning – Learning Networks by Peter B Sloep which picks up well on the key issues under discussion.

 

Using a tablet computer in anger

July 26th, 2012 by Graham Attwell

I bought an iPad at the start of this year, out of curiosity and thinking it was time to see what they could do.

I was less than convinced I needed one, having already got a MacBook and a kindle, as well as a Samsung S!! phone running on Gingerbread.

My first impressions were mixed. Whilst very easy to use, and with many great looking apps, what was I supposed to do with it? It quickly became my internet radio player of choice, I added a lot of music and even started watching a little television, which I haven’t done for a long time. I also downloaded a few games, but quickly got bored with those and irritated with the in-game purchasing adverts from so-called free games. The one productivity app I got to like was Keynote, as i allowed me just in time preparation of slides on air flights. I also liked the ability to quickly find web sites and documents in informal meetings (especially in my local pub)! But that was just about as far as it went, although once or twice I ventured out on trips without my kindle, driven mainly by airline weight restrictions forcing me to cut the number of devices I carry.

And so I arrive in Portugal for the PLE 2012 conference with the usual stack of equipment (Portugal being warm, I could carry more gear and still keep under !0 Kilos luggage). MacBook, iPad, Kindle, Phone, Zoom recorder, spare batteries, connectors, cables etc. But, however careful I am something always gets left behind. This time it was the power lead for my MacBook. I guess I could have borrowed a lead. But, given all my files are in Dropbox, I though I would give the iPad a go. And on the whole I liked it.

It feels very different, not having a laptop computer. Almost as if something is missing. But their were three things I really liked. One was just the weight factor. I like whenever possible to walk to conference venues and to try to see a little of the city I am in. the iPad is light enough you do not really notice you are carrying it. The second was the battery life. No more arriving at a venue and searching around for power leads before everyone else gets them.

the third was a session I chaired. There were three speakers. Following a short introduction from each, posing a series of issues arising from their papers, participants were supposed to have short in depth round table discussions to look at those issues. One of the speakers, Arunangsu Chatterjee, had, at the last moment, been unable to travel to Portugal, but had offered to participate remotely. We were able to connect the iPad to a projector to allow him to introduce this paper. And then when we spit into round table groups, we simply used the iPad for him to take part through skype. And strangely it worked. Of course we could have done that with a computer. But somehow he seemed to have more presence on the tablet and when people moved around we simply ‘took him with us’ on the iPad. I can see tablet computers opening up many possibilities sin terms of mobile communications.

And yes, the next time I go to a conference I might even leave the laptop behind!

 

 

Personal Learning Environments: Context is King!

July 23rd, 2012 by Graham Attwell

The last few weeks have been hectic with travel, conferences, bids and more. In the next few days ~I will try to update on some of this but first, before I forget, some quick thoughts on the Personal Learning Environments 2012 conference in Aveiro.

First on the form of the conference. PLE is what is now becoming known as a flipped conference. Rather than formal paper presentations, chairs of sessions work together with presenters to find more participative forms of delivery involving interaction with participants. The aim is not just to present research findings and ideas, but to discuss and build on that work and develop new knowledge.

This was the third PLE conference and with a sufficient number of participants having been at previous conferences and enthusiastic about the format, the sessions were even better than before. This year we were better at recording outcomes and many of the sessions have been well documented on the project web site. The physical space is central to this type of event and in that respect Aveiro was perfect with flexible spaces and good connectivity.

As in previous years we continued our practice of organising two unkeynote presentations, each with two people. Antonio Dias de Figueiredo and Frances Bell involved the participants in discussing a number of key issues, crowd sourced previous to the conference (see report on Frances’s blog). On the second day Ricardo Torres and Grainne Conole presented a series of video clips reflecting on the VLE versus PLE debate. And whilst I think that the issue is somewhat out of date, it sparked a big and ongoing response on twitter and on the Cloudworks site.

Each year we try to introduce new ideas. This year we piloted the idea of ‘One Conference – Two venues’ with face to face meet ups taking place (more or less) simultaneously in Aveiro and Melbourne. The time differences prohibited any real time link ups. But with both venues using the same #PLEConf hash tag, there was an almost seamless 24 hour flow of tweets around PLEs. Interestingly it was hard at times to work out which of the venues the tweet had been sent from.

Anotehr innovation this year was experimenting with the use of Mozilla Badges. Whilst the badge titles seemed to multiply alarmingly in the run up to the conference, it provided us with a very good insight into both technical and pedagogical issues involved with badges. I think overall the verdict was positive but their are still questions to answer. You can see a full collection of the badges here.

This year the organising committee instigated a two stage review for contributions – reviewing firstly abstracts and then secondly full papers. I was personally opposed to this fearing that such a ‘heavier’ review process would discourage participants. I think I was wrong. It might be due to other factors, but the quality of the contributions this year – at least those that I have read – seemed much higher than in previous years. And, if done well, such a review can support people in developing their ideas. Overall though, I remain unconvinced about review procedures and wonder if we could try some other forms of supporting contributors in developing their ideas (open review processes or on-line review workshops? ).

There was also a noticeable change in terms of the focus on many contributions.

At the first conference, in Barcelona in 2010, PLEs were a largely new and unexplored concept. Much effort and discussion was expended in trying to arrive at a common definition of a PLE, in debating the dichotomy between technological and pedagogy approaches and constructs to developing Personal Learning Environments, and the role of PLEs in institutional strategies.

Further discussions focused on the impact and affordance of Web 2.0 and social software on developing PLEs.

The following year at the Southampton PLE conference concerns – for instance over a tension between pedagogic and technical developments – appeared less irreconcilable with the majority of participants agreeing that a PLE can be seen as a pedagogical approach with many implications for the learning processes, underpinned by a ‘hard’ technological base.

Participants also agreed on the need to continue thinking around practices for enriching the learning process through formal and non formal learning and begun to explore the different contexts in which PLEs might be used. In this process, attempts to invent new acronyms to differentiate contexts (of PLE components, or tools), often at only a theoretical level, addded little extra-value to the previous analysis.

Aveiro had a different focus. Many of these previous debates seemed slightly irrelevant. PLEs were no longer a construct but a reality 0- in part I guess due to the increasing use of social media for learning but also with the main streaming of Massive Open On-line Courses and the increasing attention being paid to extra institutional learning.

Where as before we had many discussions about what a PLE might look like, there were now many examples of applications supporting PLEs, ranging from mash ups to Cloud services to institutional provision.

Thus the focus shifted to the different contexts in which learning takes place and to pedagogic processed, in particular how to support learners in developing their learning through a PLE. And with an increased focus on context, research had broadened. Instead of being confined within the education domain, we are seeing the emergence of interdisciplinary research – for instance bringing together work science and innovation research to understand how PLEs might be of use for learning at the workplace.

The latter subject is of particular interest to me and a group of us agreed we would set up a wiki to continue working on this. Of course commitments made in the hothouse of an intensive conference are not always fulfilled but I hope we manage to do this. And if anyone else is interested please get in touch.

Finally, despite the best intentions of all of us to support the conference organisers, inevitably much of the work falls on the shoulder of the local team. Many thanks to Carlos Santos and to Luis Pedro  and all the other colleagues from Aveiro who made the conference such a success.

 

 

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    The Global 2013 STEMx Education Conference claims to be the world’s first massively open online conference for educators focusing on Science, Technology, Engineering, Math, and more. The conference is being held over the course of three days, September 19-21, 2013, and is free to attend!
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    MOOCs and beyond

    A special issue of the online journal eLearning Papers has been released entitled MOOCs and beyond. Editors Yishay Mor and Tapio Koshkinen say the issue brings together in-depth research and examples from the field to generate debate within this emerging research area.

    They continue: “Many of us seem to believe that MOOCs are finally delivering some of the technology-enabled change in education that we have been waiting nearly two decades for.

    This issue aims to shed light on the way MOOCs affect education institutions and learners. Which teaching and learning strategies can be used to improve the MOOC learning experience? How do MOOCs fit into today’s pedagogical landscape; and could they provide a viable model for developing countries?

    We must also look closely at their potential impact on education structures. With the expansion of xMOOC platforms connected to different university networks—like Coursera, Udacity, edX, or the newly launched European Futurelearn—a central question is: what is their role in the education system and especially in higher education?”


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